There was little Midwestern kindness in store for the No. 6/6 Harvard women’s ice hockey team on Saturday.
In its 10th program visit to the NCAA Tournament, the Crimson ended its season at the hands of No. 3/3 Wisconsin, 2-1, at LeBahn Arena in Madison, Wis.
In front of the sold-out local crowd, Harvard (23-7-4, 16-3-3 ECAC) struggled to break through the Badgers’ (28-7-2, 21-5-2 WCHA) blueline. Wisconsin senior goaltender Alex Rigsby made 23 stops on the way to her 100th career victory and a trip to the Frozen Four in which she’ll hope to bookend her collegiate career with another national title. The Badgers will face No. 1 Minnesota on Friday in Hamden, Conn.
“I thought our team played very well,” said Harvard interim head coach Maura Crowell. “I think Wisconsin’s a very good team, and unfortunately we didn’t get much puck luck tonight, and they came up with the win.”
Against Rigsby’s saves and the Badgers’ defense, the Crimson registered just seven and nine shots, respectively, during the first and second periods to Wisconsin’s 18 and 17.
Bombarded with pucks, Harvard sophomore goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer made 42 saves throughout the contest, one of her highest marks all season. But she could not make all the stops.
“Getting a lot of shots—that’s always the best game to play in,” Maschmeyer said. “Our defensemen do a great job of clearing in front of the net so they make it a lot easier for me to control the puck.”
Badgers forwards Blayre Turnbull and Katy Josephs were both able to find openings past Maschmeyer, however. With less than four minutes left in the first frame, Turnbull and linemate Brittany Ammerman double-teamed the goalie in front of the crease, and Turnbull sent the puck into the net by the left pipe. A period later, with the clock ticking down the in the middle period, Josephs drove the puck under Maschmeyer to give her team the 2-0 lead.
“Hockey’s a game where literally anything can happen, so going in with a clear mind [is best],” Maschmeyer said. “For me, I just want to focus on one puck at a time.”
On the other end of the ice, it took over 55 minutes of hockey for the Crimson to break through Rigsby and her teammates. At one point in the third period, the goaltender made an acrobatic save from outside the left post using just her stick.
With 3:23 left in the contest, sophomore forward Dylanne Crugnale gave her team a fighting chance as she took an assist from classmate Miye D’Oench to finally evade Rigsby.
“[The puck] popped out and I put it in,” Crugnale said. “We got a lot of energy after that. We just wanted to tie it up…. Obviously it’s frustrating to not be able to score, but it was encourage to get one [goal].”
As time slipped away, gaining possessions became even more important as the Crimson searched for the game-tying goal. Wisconsin won three of the final four face-offs, taking an overall edge 35-19 in face-offs won throughout the game. With a half minute to go in the game, Harvard finally wrangled control of the puck. Crowell opted to pull Maschmeyer and activate 6-on-5 play. Despite the advantage, there was too little time and the buzzer could not be avoided.
“[With] 20 minutes left in our season potentially, you’ve got to empty the tank,” Crowell said. “[The team] believed, and they went after it. Wisconsin was a bit on their heels at that point and they just gave us more motivation to keep playing that way.”
—Staff writer Cordelia F. Mendez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CrimsonCordelia.